Mistrial declared in officer-assault case after witness makes remark about civil suit

Staff report


The trial of Julian C. Gibson, 21, of Salt Springs Road, Youngstown, who faced a charge of assault of a police officer was suddenly halted Thursday when a witness made a remark about a civil lawsuit connected to the incident.

Judge Peter Kontos of Trumbull County Common Pleas Court declared a mistrial, saying he could not “put the genie back in the bottle” by just asking the jurors to disregard the statement.

The charge stemmed from Gibson’s early Aug. 26, 2017, arrest behind an apartment building on Hadley Avenue in Liberty.

Patrolman Robert Altier was with Sgt. Daniel Kovach when Gibson came out of the apartment building with a friend, and Altier advised Gibson he was under arrest because of marijuana Altier had found in Gibson’s car in the apartment parking lot.

Altier observed Gibson’s hand in his coat pocket and felt that the circumstances warranted grabbing Gibson’s hand and physically taking custody of him. In the struggle that ensued, the officer used a stun gun on Gibson, and the officer suffered some bruising.

Last month, the township paid Gibson $25,000 to resolve a civil-rights lawsuit Gibson filed against Liberty and the officers.

The township said the settlement was not an admission of liability. Jurors were not supposed to hear about the civil suit.

The case is scheduled for retrial June 15.

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